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Electric Water Heater Heating Element Troubleshooting and Replacement

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Testing an Electric Water Heater Heating Element
Electric Water Heater Heating Element Troubleshooting and Replacement

Multimeter or Multi-Tester


To test an electric water heater heating element proceed as follows:
  • Use an electronic multimeter or multi-tester to test the heating elements in an electric water heater.
    Compare PricesMultimeter or Multi-Tester
  • Turn off power to the electric water heater at the main power panel. Do this by turning off the circuit breaker or fuse powering the heater.
  • Wait for the water heater to cool, this is very important because the heating elements operate off a thermostat and hot water in the tank will affect electrical flow to the heating elements.
  • Test for lukewarm to cool “hot” water by opening a hot water faucet and running the water until it is cool.
  • Remove the access cover panel and insulation covering the heating element terminal block. Fold the insulation outward and away from the heater element.
  • Loosen the screws holding the wires to each of the two terminal screws and remove the wires.
  • Test for proper functioning of the heating element by checking for an open or closed circuit (continuity) using the electronic multi-tester. Set the multi-tester to “Ohms” and connect the red lead to one terminal and the black lead to the other terminal on the heating element.
  • If the ohm reading is 0 on a digital multi-tester or if the needle reads infinity (does not move) using an analog dial, there is no flow of electricity through the element and it needs replacement.
  • If you get an ohm resistance value using the multi-tester, then the heating element itself is not bad. The problem may be the other heating element or the upper or lower heating unit thermostat.

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